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"The first rule of Fight Club is... you do not talk about Fight Club."
"Second rule of Fight Club... you DO NOT talk about Fight Club."

Well, if I adhere to the first two rules and donít talk about FIGHT CLUB ($35), this will be a very short review, indeed. Actually, FIGHT CLUB is a movie that a whole lot of people have talked about- many singing its praises, while others, out and out condemning it for its violence. Personally, I really like FIGHT CLUB. I think itís a great piece of movie making, although there are some aspects of the story that I really find detestable. However, I am not willing to kill the messenger, just because I did not like the entire content of the message. Right up front, let me say that FIGHT CLUB is a difficult and challenging movie that presents viewers with a glimpse at the evolution of a violent counterculture- something that is both frightening and thought provoking. Problem is, the type of realistic violence this film depicts is not something that average moviegoers are going to want to think about, let alone see. Mainstream movies are supposed to be an escape from reality, not a reminder of bad things appearing on the news with alarming frequency.

FIGHT CLUB stars Edward Norton as the Narrator of this disturbing tale. Nortonís character is a white-collar worker who goes through the motions at an insufferably boring job, while living the perfect yuppie lifestyle, which involves accumulating all the right possessions from all the popular catalogs. Unfortunately, while he has all the trappings of an ideal life, the narrator is an insomniac whose existence is an emotional vacuum. Eventually the Narrator finds some relief from his insomnia by attending support group meetings for every imaginable disease and disorder. Somehow, the cathartic, emotional release that these groups inspire allows him to finally get a decent nightís sleep. The Narratorís "cure" proves to be short-lived with the arrival of an interloper at his various support group meetings. Helena Bonham Carter portrays Marla Singer, the ever-present young woman, who makes it impossible for the narrator to achieve any form of emotional release in the presence of another faker. However, the Narratorís is freed from his need for the support groups when he encounters Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on a business flight. Tyler is a cocksure entrepreneur who makes and markets his own line of soap (in addition to various other undertakings).

When the Narrator returns home from his business trip, he discovers that a gas explosion has destroyed his condo and every piece of his carefully acquired existence. With nowhere to go, the Narrator pulls Tyler Durdenís business card out of his pocket and gives him a call. The two men get together for a few beers, before heading back to Tylerís place to crash for the evening. After leaving the bar, the two begin a good-natured slugfest in the parking lot that produces one positive side effect. Both men end up feeling invigorated by beating each other senseless- and so Fight Club is born. Soon, there are nightly gatherings of men pounding the crap out of each other and releasing their pent up aggression against a world in which they have no real control. However, what started out as a violent support group quickly evolves under Tylerís enigmatic direction into an army of anarchists determined to make serious changes to the very fabric of our society. The plot of FIGHT CLUB contains a whole lot more subtext, than what Iíve included in this brief plot summary, however revealing any more about the storyline would rob the film of all its surprises. Director David Fincher is ideally suited to visualizing this type of dark material, as his film SE7EN certainly bares out. With FIGHT CLUB, Fincher pushes the envelope of filmmaking technique, creating both startling and amazing imagery throughout the movie. The three principals are all perfect in their dysfunctional roles, especially Norton, who has the toughest role to carry off. FIGHT CLUB also features solid supporting performances from Meat Loaf Aday and Jared Leto.

20th Century Home Entertainment has created a truly first rate Special Edition release of FIGHT CLUB, which comes as a two-disc set in a funky, fold out cardboard and plastic package. FIGHT CLUB looks amazing on DVD, even though it isnít exactly the easiest movie to transfer to video and compress into the MPEG-2 format. The presentation restores the filmís full 2.35:1 theatrical framing, plus the DVD features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. FIGHT CLUB is a very dark movie; not only in theme, but also in the way it has been photographed. However, even the darkest scenes are well rendered, with a surprisingly good level of detail. Of course, any portion of the film shot with more lighting delivers a sharp and even better defined image. Colors never appear over-saturated, but are rendered throughout with excellent fidelity. Flesh tones that arenít bruised or bleeding tend to look very natural. There are absolutely no problems with chroma noise or color bleeding, as (all bleeding is done by the filmís characters). Blacks are right on the money and contrast maintains an even look, no matter what type of photographic or processing tricks are applied to the image. Dual layer authoring prevents any digital compression artifacts from rearing their ugly heads. 

FIGHT CLUB is one of those movies where the sound designer gets a prominent credit, so is it any wonder that the Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack really rocks? This is a demonstration quality soundtrack that makes aggressive use of the discrete nature of the Dolby Digital format. Sounds leap out from everywhere, including the split surrounds, but the sound field always maintains a cohesive, integrated quality. Dialogue is sharp and completely intelligible, but is not always locked into the center channel, like most sound mixes. The bass is low and deep, certain to give you subwoofer a workout. Warning- keep the breakables away from the edges of shelves, since the low sonic rumbles of this track will set them a teetering. The filmís music by The Dust Brothers makes to most of the Dolby Digital encoding, lending even more octane to this high power sound mix. Those of you with a 6.1 decoder can take advantage of that extra bit of information, since this killer track has also been encoded in THX Surround EX. Additionally, English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are available on this DVD. Subtitles are provided on the disc in English and Spanish.

FIGHT CLUB sports some cool interactive menus that include animation, full motion video and sound. Through the interactive menus one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements (the main body of supplements are contained on disc two of the set). Disc one offers viewers four separate audio commentaries. The first commentary is by director David Fincher. The second features David Fincher (again), plus actors Brad Pitt, Ed Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter. The third commentary is by novelist Chuck Palahniuk and screenwriter Jim Uhls. Finally, the forth commentary is by production designer Alex McDowell, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, costumer Michael Kaplan, FX supervisor Kevin Haug, and animator Doc Bailey. All four tracks have their merits and fans will find numerous rewards in each. THX OptiMode test signals have also been encoded onto disc one, allowing one to optimize their audio and video set-ups for watching DVDs.

Disc two supplements have been broken up into sections. The Crew offers extensive cast/crew biographies/filmographies. The Work takes one behind-the-scenes and looks at the production, the visual effects, various missing scenes and deleted footage, and location shooting. This section of supplements utilizes the multiple angle feature on several of the individual sequences. The Advertising section includes three theatrical trailers, plus seventeen TV spots, both national and international. Advertising also offers a music video from Dust Brothers, as well as a few other goodies. The Art features storyboards, photos and additional artwork. All in all, there is a ton of material on disc two. Also check out the twenty-page booklet that comes with FIGHT CLUB, since it contains a whole lot more than the usual insert. You gotta love the way that negative quotes about the movie are included in the booklet along with the positive.

FIGHT CLUB is not a movie that will appeal to every taste, but if you like challenging, dark and subversive movies that make you think, then check this one out. If you are already a fan, you canít go wrong purchasing 20th Century Home Entertainmentís marvelous DVD edition. Highly recommended.


Fight Club



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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